Luna Barefoot Sandals: Adventure Footwear

Luna Sandals Copper Canyon Mexico

Luna Sandals: Great for Adventure Travel

Gear Review

I’ve been traveling with a pair of Luna barefoot sandals for over a year now, wearing them for running, hiking, and everyday use. Here is my review.

For the majority of history, humans have not needed sneakers. In fact they’ve only been in use for the past 70 years. It’s a modern product created to solve a problem that never really existed.

Research is starting to show that heavy over-padded footwear actually helps contribute to shin splints, knee injuries, and back problems. Luna Sandals offer a fantastic lightweight & minimalist alternative to running sneakers.

The Barefoot Movement

You may or may not already know about the barefoot running movement. But it’s really taken off in the last 5 years. People from all over the world are re-discovering the benefits of running with minimal footwear (or none at all).

What are the benefits? More efficient movement and less injury.

A barefoot shoe or sandal is one with very little padding on the sole. This enables you to feel the ground while strengthening and toughening up the foot.

Without extra padding in the heel, we’re able to run naturally. The way we were made to. Striking the ground with the ball of our foot rather than the heel.

So I got into the action a few years ago with a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. While I enjoyed the benefits of the Vibrams, they had a smell problem and stood out a bit too much for my tastes. Especially in foreign countries.

Luna Sandals Copper Canyon Mexico

Trail Running in Mexico’s Copper Canyon

Luna Sandals: Why I Like Them

A friend and fellow long-term traveler Richard Garcia recommended I check out a pair of Luna Sandals. They were created by a guy named Barefoot Ted.

He based the design on traditional huarache sandals worn by Mexico’s native Tarahumara people for centuries. You may have read about his journey in the book Born To Run.

I’ve been wearing Lunas for over a year now while traveling through Mexico, Canada, Fiji, Thailand, and the US.

So what do I think of them?

  • Incredibly Lightweight: At about 4.5 ounces, Lunas weigh next to nothing. Made with a thin piece of high-tech Vibram rubber sole & a leather strap.
  • Easy to Pack: They take up very little room in my backpack.
  • Great for Running: The strap system keeps the sandals on my feet very well, letting me run & scramble up rocks without them slipping off.
  • Decent in Water: While not ideal for walking long distances in water, they work great for most water activities like kayaking, rafting, short river crossings, etc.
  • Classic Look: Ok, maybe “ancient” is a better term. My sister calls them my Jesus shoes. There are different styles available though.
  • No Smell: Because it’s a sandal, I don’t have to worry about sweaty feet.
  • Super Comfortable: Once they wear in and mold to the shape of your foot, it really does feel like you’re barefoot.

Very Few Disadvantages

While I really love these sandals, nothing is perfect. Here are some of the issues I’ve found with them.

  • Straps Break: About every 3-4 months a leather strap will break in the knot area under my big toe. But this happens with Tarahumara huaraches too. All you need to do is tie a new knot, pull everything tight again, and you’re good to go.
  • Cold Weather: Because it’s a sandal, it doesn’t keep my feet warm in colder weather. Which means I carry a pair of shoes with me too. Not that big a deal. I usually want shoes with me for nights on the town or serious hiking trips anyway.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for comfortable barefoot sandals to provide minimalist protection for your feet while running, walking, or on easy hikes, a pair of Lunas is the way to go. Highly recommended. ★

More Information

Product: Luna Sandals
Cost: $65 USD
Useful Notes: There are a few different styles available — I currently own the Mono with traditional red leather laces. They’re kind of tribal looking. But you need to tie them to your foot, rather than simply pulling a strap like other versions.




This post contains affiliate links. However I would never endorse a product or service I didn’t actually use & believe in. Reader trust is always more important.

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Comments & Questions

28 Comments

  1. Leon
    September 3, 2014

    Do you ever have trouble with irritation between the toes from this style? I’ve had to mostly give up using this type in favor of the Teva style, with the 1″ strap that goes across the toes rather than the thong. Been using a pair of Teva “Mush” models for the past several months. (I mostly use sandals for running, not hiking). Have more recently tried a pair of New Balance “Minimus” sandals, but have had a couple of problems with these.

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      September 4, 2014

      Not really, the leather is soft. I know what you mean about how some sandals can be irritating because of the thong, but I don’t have that problem with these unless I’m trying to climb or descend very steep inclines with them, which can create a lot of pressure there. But it’s rare and short lived. Normal walking & hiking feels great.

      Reply
    • Leon
      September 4, 2014

      Been working on the NB sandals with a Black & Decker w/abrasive head, smoothing out the sole. I post reviews of shoes on my Tumbler blog. You might also be interested in my book, Run Like an Indian. Have hesitated to buy a second pair of Lunas when I had problems with the first ones couple of years ago. But might try the newer models.

      Reply
  2. Ellie
    May 19, 2014

    I heard from a friend that barefoot shoes are better on your joints than barefoot sandals. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      May 26, 2014

      There have been a few studies and anecdotal evidence that suggests this. But more need to be done.

      It is important that anyone who starts running in these or any minimal-style footware start slow though. There was a big class action lawsuit against Vibram because people were getting stress-fractures in their feet.

      If you go overboard, you can end up harming yourself because our feet are weak from years of being trapped in bulky shoes. It takes a while to build up those muscles and ligaments.

      Reply
      • Brian
        September 10, 2014

        I’ve spent about 18 months transitioning to “barefoot” running and it’s all just clicked for me this summer. In my experience, if your foot landing is correct, it shouldn’t matter if you’re wearing sandals, shoes, or nothing at all.

        Reply
  3. The Barefoot Army
    October 6, 2013

    Hey Matthew,
    Couldn’t agree more….although I do still occasionally wear fivefingers, I LOVE Lunas. Big thanks to Barefoot Ted for creating and getting them out there.

    Reply
  4. Emily
    May 7, 2013

    Great review, I think all in all it’s a good footwear especially for those who loves outdoor activities.

    Reply
  5. Mistie
    May 5, 2013

    I run in Altra No Drop sneakers all winter and then have had the toughest time finding a sandal that lets my feet be themselves. I have to hike, kayak, run, etc working at camps in the summer and tried Chacos, but they are horrible. Thanks for the review! p.s. my 5 fingers smelled horrible too!

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      May 5, 2013

      No problem Mistie. Love my Lunas! If you pick up a pair, let me know what you think.

      Reply
  6. Simon
    April 25, 2013

    Cool never heard of these. but like the concept they’re modern design but with traditional/minimalist looks. I have a pair of vibram 5fingers but don’t run in them. I have been using Nike Freeruns to work up to the 5fingers one day. These sound like an good, non-stinky alternative for travelling in tropical countries. Cool that they fit well enough to run in too. Will probably have to order a pair to try out when I’m back home.

    Reply
  7. The Guy
    March 4, 2013

    Great review. Sorry to hear that the straps break so frequently but I suppose with regular wear this is inevitable.

    Thank goodness they are not horrible flip flops.

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      March 5, 2013

      It’s not as bad as it sounds, just takes a minute to fix no matter where you are or what you’re doing. The newer versions don’t have the problem though, because those straps don’t have a knot. But I just really like the old style. :)

      Reply
  8. ben
    February 20, 2013

    I have been wearing a pare of Luna’s everyday now for three months and i love them. I no longer like wearing shoes at all. I would highly recommend them. For all its minimalism the only thing that gets me is when your foot gets wet it slides around in the sandel. I notice most when rock scrambling along the coast. All in all, i love them and would highly recommend them to anyone! and there sizing guide on there website is great too!

    Reply
  9. TammyOnTheMove
    February 19, 2013

    They look really cool actually. Being German I swear by my Birkenstocks, but they are awful for hiking up mountains, so I always use my Keen trekking sandals then. They need replacing though, so will check out the Luna website to see if they post abroad. Thanks for sharing. :-)

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      February 19, 2013

      Brikenstocks are comfy. :)

      I’m slowly trying to build up my foot & ankle muscles in order to go on tougher hikes with the Lunas. For now I’ll only do easier day hikes with them. But I’ve heard of others who take them on longer hikes with no issues. Your feet need to work up to that.

      Reply
  10. Jim
    February 18, 2013

    @Matthew

    Sorry to disagree with you on this but most of the MD’s I know have graduated within the last 10-15 years (work in an ER) and I see foot and knee injuries all day long to know any better. One who runs barefoot is purposely running on the ball of his foot. The natural run should be like walking (heel to toe) just faster. I’m not one to take expert opinions from armchair quarterbacks without knowing how the body works. Even more so if it’s from Wikipedia. You do realize that in the field of medicine it’s a requirement to keep your continuing education ever so present?

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      February 19, 2013

      No worries Jim, you’re free to disagree. I love a good conversation.

      But these are not studies conducted by random Wikipedia writers, that first one is from a professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard. I’m just suggesting you look into it a bit more if you’re interested — because it’s pretty fascinating stuff.

      In fact in countries without widespread use of shoes, including indigenous people who’ve never used shoes, the heel strike is not common at all. So the heel strike is only common in that we’re all doing it this way because of shoes, but it’s certainly not “natural.”

      Some of this is covered in the above mentioned Harvard study. Here’s a video of Dr. Lieberman discussing his findings (for anyone who doesn’t want to sift through a Harvard research study): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jrnj-7YKZE

      Of course nothing is definitive yet, more testing needs to be done. But the stuff I’ve read seems to show we’ve been doing it all wrong. Not to mention my own personal experience over the last year and a half. Guess we’ll see what happens in the next 10 years. Maybe I’m completely wrong. As long as I’m seeing benefits and no disadvantages, I will continue to promote this technique. Have you ever tried it yourself Jim? You don’t need to buy anything. Just take off your shoes and go for a long run in the grass. :D

      A side note: It’s initially important to be careful going barefoot because our feet/ankles are weak and overly sensitive from keeping them trapped in shoes our whole lives. It also takes time to stop running with a heel-toe strike. Could that be the reason your doctor friends see injuries?

      Reply
  11. Jim
    February 18, 2013

    While they might seem like the ticket…I’ve been told by more than 1 foot doctor that running without a good sneaker is very damaging to the knees in particular. Something this sandal obviously doesn’t address. A hiking boot offers protection for the foot as well as the ankle as well. I’d say thee are perfect for the beach setting as opposed to a serious hiking expedition.

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      February 18, 2013

      Have you read Born to Run yet Jim? Just because someone is a doctor, does not make them experts about everything. Unless that particular foot doctor happens to be an expert on the topic of barefoot running. I’m sure your doctor is a nice man/woman. But I trust modern research done by experts over the opinion of a foot doctor who probably went to medical school back when padded running shoes were considered a good thing.

      Smoking used to be good for you too, according to doctors in the 1950 & 60s. :D

      Here are a few quotes from actual research studies about this: (from Wikipedia):

      “By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike.” [link]

      “It has also been found that running in conventional running shoes increases stress on the knee joints up to 38%.” [link]

      As for my own research, I used to get shin-splints when I ran. Now with no running shoes, they have disappeared.

      Reply
  12. Miguel Llorente
    February 16, 2013

    They look nice, but for $50 I could buy a month’s supply of food and the materials to make the same identical sandals!

    Reply
  13. Lindsay
    February 16, 2013

    Jesus sandals!

    Reply
  14. Russell Mease
    February 12, 2013

    Matthew, you could get a pair of Ininji Socks (with toes) to wear with your sandals for colder days. These sandals look like they could replace my flip-flops I usually take on my travels.

    http://www.injinji.com

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      February 18, 2013

      Cool, I’ll have to look into that. Thanks for the tip Russell.

      Reply
  15. Matthew Karsten
    February 12, 2013

    Now that I’ve been running in sandals, I don’t think I could ever go back. Takes a little to get used to it, mainly because your calves get worked much more than normal. But it’s good “workout” pain, not injury pain. :)

    Reply
  16. eleanore
    February 12, 2013

    I may have to try these sandals! I had to train in sandals last year due to a sting ray injury to the heel of my foot. I was forbidden to wear shoes for about 5 months (to keep the sting open). I agree – running in nude feet strengthens the arches, tendons etc… You develop great foot muscles!

    Reply

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